Backpack the Three Passes Everest Base Camp Trek

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Embark on the most challenging, rugged trek in the Khumbu region complete with breathtaking views of the tallest mountain in the world. Complete the crossing of three high passes above 17,500 ft. over the course of 18-22 days.

The Three Passes Trek is a seriously challenging, seriously awe-inspiring high-altitude trek through the Nepalese Himalayas. Lonely Planet describes this as “the ultimate Everest trek… Only for the truly adventurous.” In fact, for over a week during this trek you will be hiking and sleeping above the highest point in the continuous United States (14,505 ft.).

As it’s named, this route crosses three high passes:

  • Kongma-La: 18,159 ft.
  • Cho-La: 17,782 ft.
  • Renjo-La: 17,536 ft.

This is a great alternative to the traditional Everest Base Camp Trek, which uses an out-and-back route from Lukla. On the Three Passes route, you’ll do a counterclockwise circuit that visits EBC about halfway through. While at Base Camp, you’ll have the opportunity to climb Kala Patthar, reaching a staggering 18,514 ft. as your trip’s highpoint.

Sample itinerary from Lonely Planet:

  • Day 1: Lukla to Phakding (8,563 ft.)
  • Day 2: Phakding to Namche Bazaar (11,302 ft.)
  • Day 3: Rest day in Namche Bazaar – Opportunity to visit highest hotel in the world, Hotel Everest View or Khumjung (12,400 ft.)
  • Day 4: Namche Bazaar to Tengboche (12,664 ft.)
  • Day 5: Rest day in Tengboche
  • Day 6: Tengboche to Dingboche (14,469 ft.)
  • Day 7: Dingboche to Chhukung (15,514 ft.)
  • Day 8: Rest day in Chhukung – Opportunity to climb Chhukung Ri (18,196 ft.) or visit Island Peak Base Camp (16,690 ft.)
  • Day 9: Chhukung over Kongma-La (18,159 ft.) to Lobuche (16,170 ft.)
  • Day 10: Lobuche to Gorak Shep (16,859 ft.) and Everest Base Camp (17,600 ft.)
  • Day 11: Gorak Shep to Kala Patthar climb (18,514 ft.) and back to Lobuche (16,170 ft.)
  • Day 12: Lobuche to Dzonglha (15,880 ft.)
  • Day 13: Dzonglha over Cho-La (17,782 ft.) to Gokyo (15,580 ft.)
  • Day 14: Rest day in Gokyo – Opportunity hike around Gokyo Lakes
  • Day 15: Rest day in Gokyo – Opportunity to climb Gokyo Ri (17,585 ft.)
  • Day 16: Gokyo over Renjo-La (17,536 ft.) to Lumde (14,370 ft.)
  • Day 17: Lumde to Thame (12,500 ft.)
  • Day 18: Thame to Namche Bazaar (11,302 ft.)
  • Day 19: Namche Bazaar to Cheplung (8,840 ft.)
  • Day 20: Cheplung to Lukla (9,315 ft.)

Of course, it is best to be flexible with your itinerary and allow a few days of wiggle room in case you choose to spend an extra day acclimatizing or adding on a detour.

Logistics

This trek begins out of Lukla, which is most commonly accessed by the “world’s most dangerous airport.” For purists, you can take a bus from Kathmandu to Jiri and trek 4-5 days to Lukla.

Do not expect to find an ATM, hot shower, pharmacy, laundromat, Wi-Fi, or other amenities on this trek. A few towns do feature these luxuries, but you should be prepared to forgo them so you don’t get your hopes up. You’ll also need to allot a full extra day in Kathmandu to collect your TIMS (Trekkers Information Management System) card before you take off on your trek.

Expectations

  • Cost: Nepal is well known for its affordability. Many lodges are $1-3/night, or totally free, but it is expected that you purchase all meals where you overnight. Budget $10/day and you’ll be just fine.
  • Lodging: This is one of Nepal’s “teahouse treks,” where you are walking through villages with ample food and accommodation options. That means no packing a tent, stove, and other cumbersome camping items – though you still will want a sleeping bag. Teahouses have virtually no insulation, though the common room is kept warm by burning yak dung (during limited hours).  The higher you hike, the more primitive lodges will become. Above 16,000 ft. your water bottles will freeze at night if you do not put them in your sleeping bag.
  • Food: It is illegal to kill animals in the Khumbu Valley, so all meat is flown into the airport and hiked into towns. That means that the higher the elevation you’re at, the longer this raw meat has been carried on a Sherpa’s back. LPT: Don’t purchase meat above Lukla, expect to go vegetarian for the duration of your trip. Dal bhat is the Nepalese staple that you will find on every menu: Rice, lentil soup, and curried vegetables. It’s inexpensive, filling, and carbo-loaded for extra stamina!
  • Weather: Spring and fall are the most popular times to trek in Nepal because of the generally good weather conditions. That being said, conditions at high altitude conditions are often unstable, and you should be prepared for rain, snow, and even blazing hot temperatures anytime you trek.
  • Support: Local guides are a great resource to help you navigate and learn the history and culture of Nepal, as well as a great way to contribute to local economy. Porters are available out of Kathmandu, Lukla, or nearly anywhere along the trail. Consider hiring guides over each of the passes if you are wary of the route or weather.

Common courtesies and culture

Only give and receive things with your right hand, left hands are considered unclean. Nepalese eat with their hands, and if you choose to do the same, be extra careful your left hand does not touch your food or plate.

Pay attention to cultural sensitivity. Nepalese do not wear shorts, and while some Westerners think “it’s okay” to make an exception for themselves, be aware that you will stand out. You should also honor religious customs, like walking clockwise around stupas and shrines, and always staying left on the trail – especially past prayer stones.

The bottom line

This is the most challenging high-altitude trek in the Khumbu Valley, so preparation (mental, physical, and situational + packing) is tantamount to a safe and successful journey. Choose the Three Passes Everest Base Camp Trek for a spectacular challenge with unbeatable views wrapped together in an authentic high-altitude Himalayan experience. 

Pack List

  • Passport with Nepal Visa
  • TIMS card 
  • Sagarmatha National Park Permit
  • Cash (Nepalese rupee)
  • Water treatment (such as iodine)
  • Headlamp + extra batteries
  • Trekking poles
  • Comfortable, worn-in trekking shoes
  • PLENTY of socks and underwear, prepare to wear many days in a row
  • Sun protection: Brimmed hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, bandana or neck buff
  • Optional depending on conditions: Crampons, gaiters, ice axe
  • Everyday trekking clothing: Lightweight pants, long sleeve shirts, stick to dry-fit or wicking materials
  • Cold weather clothing: Parka, fleece mid-layer, wool hat, gloves, insulated (down) pants, long underwear leggings
  • Waterproof clothing: Rain jacket, Gore-tex pant shells
  • Large 50L+ backpack with rain fly
  • Sleeping bag (trust me, you want this)
  • Quick drying towel
  • Toiletries including toilet paper
  • Hand sanitizer, soap for hand washing clothes
  • Universal plug adaptor, cords for charging 
Show More
RT Distance 110 Miles
Elevation Gain 20800 Feet
Activities Photography, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Spring, Autumn
Trail Type Loop
Features
Adult Beverages
Bathrooms
Forest
Groups
Romantic
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

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